John Michael Swinbank

Image by Ross SwanboroughJohn Michael Swinbank is a singer / actor / raconteur with an international reputation gained by a distinctive interpretation of the Noël Coward musical repertoire. Born in England, based in Perth, Western Australia, he has been described as “Australia’s foremost Coward exponent” and has toured widely throughout Australia and beyond.

One of Western Australia’s more unusual exports”, John Michael’s special affinity for the British composer’s material came to prominence in the 1990s with 18 international tours to countries such as Bahrain, China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Oman, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. Some career highlights include the re-opening of the world famous Raffles Hotel in 1991, gala performances aboard Cunard ocean-liner, QE2 and a special invitation to fire Hong Kong’s legendary Noonday Gun, immortalised by Coward in Mad Dogs & Englishmen and fired by him in 1968.

In 2007, John Michael created and starred in two new plays with music, A Coward in Vegas and Two Old Queens for Mirage Makers. 

Beyond Coward, Swinbank’s repertoire extends to the sophisticated lyrics of Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Stephen Sondheim, Alan Jay Lerner, Sammy Cahn and their ilk. His vocal and acting skills enable him to characterise songs from the musical theatre whether they be witty postcards from high society or harrowing essays drawn from the human heart. Beginning with the late Marie Sermon in 1982 at The University of Western Australia, John Michael works with piano accompanists of exceptional calibre, frequently with strong classical backgrounds, including Mark Coughlan, Tim Cunniffe and Richard John.

His theatrical career has spanned a variety of roles from the Ichneumon Fly in The Insect Play to Dog in 123 & the Dog by Victoria Midwinter Pitt. Other favourite roles include Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night for the Hole in the Wall Theatre Company and Christopher in Elegies for Punk, Angels & Raging Queens for the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. In 2005, he starred in the Prickly Pear Ensemble premiere of Imperial Façade, a comedy drama about the Singapore adventures of Noël Coward, especially written for John Michael by Western Australian playwright, John Aitken. John Michael has worked with theatre directors, John Aitken, Joan Kemp Welch, Raymond Omodei, Victoria Midwinter Pitt and Peter Kingston.

Corporate work includes 2002 World Congress of Orchidology, 2002 Ronald McDonald House Conference Australia, 2002 Australian Conference of Immunology, launches of Landrover and Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777s, West Australian Opera’s 30th Anniversary Black & White Ball and the 4th International Wine Symposium.

John Michael is a member of the Media Entertainment Arts Alliance (in all sections since 1984).

Photography by Ross Swanborough.

Imperial Facde poster by Crispian Chan / Photography by Stephen Tate.